Heather Bennett

MA work

Title of Dissertation: ‘The Key to Better Living’, Mail Order Catalogue Shopping; ‘Bring A Great Store Into The Comfort of the Home’, 1950s–1970s

Mail order catalogues championed the promise to transform the lives of British families to achieve ‘better living’, proclaiming that ‘you can easily afford all the advantages of modern living’. The retailers assured that this would be made possible by purchasing catalogue goods with easily accessible credit, through an approved agent. Without a physical shop window to lure customers inside, the catalogue served as a portable shop window circulated by female agents within their social networks. Discussed and pored over during lunch breaks at work or flicked through with a quick cup of tea at home, catalogues were a part of working-class consumer culture.

Catalogues mediated between retailers and customers, constructing a narrative of aspiration designed to showcase the merchandise. Creating reader identification was central to enticing the customer to make a purchase. Jet-set, youthful models clad in the latest fashions were featured alongside the ubiquitous housewife who was often depicted immersing herself in home decorating or getting to grips with the latest domestic gadgetry. Through a consideration of catalogue design and production as well as the agent’s interaction with the catalogue during the 1950s, '60s and '70s, I explore the ways in which mail order companies engaged, appealed and created aspiration and ‘taste’ with would-be female customers in mind.

Info

  • Heather Bennett profile image
  • MA Degree

    School

    School of Fine Art

    Programme

    MA History of Design, 2013

  • Title of Dissertation: ‘The Key to Better Living’, Mail Order Catalogue Shopping; ‘Bring A Great Store Into The Comfort of the Home’, 1950s–1970s

    Mail order catalogues championed the promise to transform the lives of British families to achieve ‘better living’, proclaiming that ‘you can easily afford all the advantages of modern living’. The retailers assured that this would be made possible by purchasing catalogue goods with easily accessible credit, through an approved agent. Without a physical shop window to lure customers inside, the catalogue served as a portable shop window circulated by female agents within their social networks. Discussed and pored over during lunch breaks at work or flicked through with a quick cup of tea at home, catalogues were a part of working-class consumer culture.

    Catalogues mediated between retailers and customers, constructing a narrative of aspiration designed to showcase the merchandise. Creating reader identification was central to enticing the customer to make a purchase. Jet-set, youthful models clad in the latest fashions were featured alongside the ubiquitous housewife who was often depicted immersing herself in home decorating or getting to grips with the latest domestic gadgetry. Through a consideration of catalogue design and production as well as the agent’s interaction with the catalogue during the 1950s, '60s and '70s, I explore the ways in which mail order companies engaged, appealed and created aspiration and ‘taste’ with would-be female customers in mind.

  • Degrees

  • BA (Hons), History, Roehampton University, 2009
  • Experience

  • Co-editor, Unmaking Things, London, 2012–13; Volunteer, Museum of London, 2012–13; Volunteer, Oral History Project, Queen Mayr's Hospital, London, 2008–9